Sidelines with John Clay

Q&A: John Calipari after UK’s loss to UCLA

Transcript of John Calipari’s press conference after UK’s 97-92 loss to UCLA on Saturday.

Q: What did you learn about your team?

COACH CALIPARI: “First of all, you’ve got to give UCLA credit for what they did. I mean, what Leaf did, he basically dominated the game. We had no one, unless I was going to go big lineup, which we haven’t done a whole lot, which shows me maybe we have to be prepared for that. But he killed us. Straight line drives, rebounds, making shots. We left him a couple times. He played. They also played to their strengths. Now, we turned them over a bunch, got a lot more shots than they did. But when we had our chance down seven, turnover, dunk, give up a three, all within 13 seconds. It’s all discipline.

“So for us, this wasn’t about offensively. We gave up 10 threes and I’m guessing six of them we left a shooter. All we talked about for two days is the one way they’re going to beat us is bouncing it, they’re not beating us shooting standing threes. I’m guessing six of them, maybe seven, plus the one right before half, which you have to give it to them, it was a heck of a shot.

“This is a lesson for us. We didn’t have the energy. I had to call a timeout a minute into the game. I mean, just wasn’t the same team. How about this one? We had 16 assists. Why didn’t we pass it today? Because it was national television, it’s my time? We all look bad. There are great lessons out of this. I wish we would have come back and won. I would have liked to learn from that lesson a little bit more. But sometimes you need to get hit on the chin, especially at home.

“Steve (Alford) and the staff, they were ready. We missed a lot of lay-ups, one-footer stuff. But it all comes back to the same thing: we didn’t have discipline defensively, we just didn’t. We fouled on drives instead of giving them space. Now all of a sudden you put them to the foul line when they were having a tough time scoring.

“I have to give credit to them. To come into this building. It’s 12:30, 9:30 their time, to come in and do what they did to us, and they manhandled us, they physically manhandled us. You don’t see that very often, especially in this building.”

Q. Is it easier to go back and coach next practice after they’ve taken one on the chin?

COACH CALIPARI: “We’ll see. We’ll see. I mean, first of all, you’ve got to watch the tape and then you can’t be delusional. We let them out-battle us. We didn’t have the energy that they had. Now they’ve got to figure out why. I talked two days about, ‘You have to figure out what makes you go, because every game we play is someone’s Super Bowl, every game. May not be fair, but you’re here, and that’s how it is.’ We had some guys I don’t think were ready to start the game. They just weren’t. Or their team was more ready than our team.

“I liked the fact we didn’t give up, we kept fighting, all that. But you can’t make a run and then have a turnover, dunk, give up a three, five-point play in 12 seconds. You can’t do it. You can’t do it to your teammates. It was, again, a disciplined play. I’m not going to try anything fancy. We’re going to get a basket and be down five. That’s just a learning experience.”

Q. You talked about close games, see who can do it, who can’t. Did Malik show you something about that?

COACH CALIPARI: “Yeah, he did some things at the end that he’s not afraid to make baskets. But even then we broke down. Again, discipline. We were trying to do something, and a guy just said, ‘Well, I’m going to do this.’ That happened late. These were all lessons that if you’re going to win at the highest level, like playing UCLA or any other top-10 team, you can’t break off stuff. You’ve got to do what your job says you do, especially defensively. The fight for balls, not a whole lot you can do. I mean, they out-fought us. They came up with balls that normally we would get. Some of it our hands are on it, their hands are on it, they got it. They out-rebound us. I didn’t realize Wenyen had five offensive rebounds until the game ended.

“But I thought defensively, again, that position, he and Derek, you’ve got to be able to guard that guy. I mean, like I said, that was a problem for us. It was more than that. It’s everybody. It’s all of us, including me. Obviously, we weren’t as ready as they were. That comes back to me. I decided not to have a shootaround. I’m not making an excuse. That was my choice. Now that I see the result, I would have had a shootaround this morning. I just felt maybe they were mature enough to do this. I’m learning about this team.”

Q. After Lonzo Ball hit the three at the end of the first half to give them the lead, what happened when they went on that 11-2 run to start the second half?

COACH CALIPARI: “I’m going to have to watch all the tape. There’s a lot of possessions here. You’re asking me about five possessions. I can remember the two that bothered me the most: the throw-ahead for a lay-up, stolen dunk, the three back-to-back. But, again, if I remember right, we missed some shots. We missed a lay-up. You know, we missed a lot of one-foot shots. Again, was it the environment that they’re just not used to? Now guys have got to go back and just say, ‘Man, look, we know it doesn’t work this way.’ But they came after us.

“Look, I ran a play to end the half, and it ended up with Wenyen at the three. That was my mistake. As soon as I saw he was open, I said, ‘Why did I run that?’ Put him near the baseline, let him do something. They come down, make that three. We went from being up one to down four at halftime. That’s, again, me still learning about these guys, seeing what we can do.

“Bam missed some dunks. Dunk the ball, why’re you laying it? He made his free throws. Other guys, Malik is not getting fouled enough. He’s trying to avoid the contact and flip balls. You’ve got to get fouls. He had no free throws. I told him at the half I wanted him to get to the line 10 times. Obviously we’re going to have to work on that and show him what that means. There are no flips at that point. You’re going to get fouled. I’m going in here to get fouled. Maybe I make an and-one, but I’m not shooting a step-back fade-away flip left-handed scoop, I’m not doing that. We have some work to do with this.”

Q. As you struggled a little bit defensively inside, did Isaac show you something?

COACH CALIPARI: “Isaac did all right today. I thought Isaac did all right. They didn’t hurt us in the pick-and-rolls as much as I thought they would, they hurt us just driving the ball. Then we come off. They made some tough shots. They’re a good team. They’re going to make tough shots. I know this, if you give them a catch-and-shoot three, they’re making that. We knew that going in. We gave them a bunch of those.”

Q. John, it appeared to me that perhaps your team may have been playing a little tentative in the second half, lacked the aggressiveness. Can you comment on that?

COACH CALIPARI: “Well, again, I’ll watch the tape. I just think we didn’t pass the ball like we had been. I mean, there were a bunch of opportunities for us to pass that we didn’t make. I told them after the game, ‘You can’t play that way, you all look bad.’ If we would have made extra passes, maybe had easier shots, maybe it would have been a little different. This is the first time on this stage with a team like this, with national television, starting four freshmen. Kind of showed at times.

“I think it was more defense than it was offense, to be honest. We got 80 shots, could have made a few more. But when you think about the shots we missed, I’m going to guess eight of them were at the rim and we missed them, like eight. When you look at we shot 80, it would have been a 50-percent shooting night if we just made the ones that were two feet.”

Q. Were the team illnesses this week any factor in this?

COACH CALIPARI: “No, no, no. Had nothing to do with anything. The factor in the game is they played better than us and they played harder than us. They had more fight than we had. They made some shots when we missed some shots.

“The reality of it is, we are a defensive team. We walked into this game thinking, ‘We’re just going to try to score.’ I had a bunch of guys play that way. That’s why they had what they had at halftime. It’s okay on an out-of-bounds play to give them a lay-up? They had two of those. What? That is where we got to go with this. Again, these are all lessons. That’s why you play a season. The great thing about college basketball is you’d like to learn from close wins, but sometimes it doesn’t work that way, you got to learn from a loss. That’s what we’ll try to do.”

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